1 Thessalonians Chapter 5:1-11
(Vs. 1-2) “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”
There have always been those well-meaning brethren within the wider Body of the Messiah who have gone to great lengths to pinpoint the day of the Messiah’s return and inevitably they have all been wrong. Date setting as to the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus is a futile exercise. Did not the Lord Jesus say; “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). While we cannot know the day or the very hour of our Lord Jesus’ return we can most certainly know the signs of His Second Coming. In Matthew Chapter 24 He speaks about “the labour pains” of widespread spiritual deception, of wars, rumours of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes in various places. Luke adds disease or pestilence. When a woman goes into labour the contractions start to come intermittently and then increase in intensity and frequency and when they are coming one upon another you know the birth of the baby is imminent.
So when, when these “birth pains” mentioned by the Lord Jesus are occurring simultaneously in intensity and frequency, you know that the birth of the Messianic Kingdom on earth is about to happen. While we cannot know the day or the hour we can certainly know the times and seasons and Paul had taught the believers at Thessalonica about these times and seasons when he was with them and did not sense the need to elaborate on them in this his first letter. He then goes on to tell them that the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night. He is not speaking about a secret coming but his emphasis was on the unexpectedness of the Messiah’s Second Coming and that when He is least expected.
(Vs.3) “While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labour pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.”
A time will come when a somewhat settled peace by and large will happen in the world. Things at last will seem to get better and people will be saying “peace and safety at last” and assuming to a great degree it is “business as usual.” It will be just like it was in the days of Noah before the flood when people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage right up to the day Noah entered the ark and knew nothing about the deluge to come that would sweep them all away (Matthew 25:37-42). There was violence and perverted sexual practices and people’s imaginations were only set on evil all of the time (Genesis 6:5-13). The conditions we see happening in our world today mirrors the day of Noah before the flood. When God sends his judgements they are designed with the primary purpose of bringing about repentance and a return back to Him. When He pours out His wrath there is no reprieve. The flood was the wrath of God, and a foreshadowing of the wrath to come right at the end of this present age when the earth and the heavens will be purged by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).
The Day of the LORD is not a single event but a series of consecutive events in rapid succession following one upon another that will see the judgements of God followed by the rapture and resurrection, and immediately after that the wrath of God and the physical return of the Lord Jesus. As we will see in Paul’s second letter the Day of the Lord is directly connected to our being gathered to the Lord Jesus in the air. The Day of the LORD will affect every level of society (Isaiah Chapter 24) (Isaiah 13:9-13) (Matthew 24:29) (Isaiah 34:1-4) (Revelation 6:12—17). Of course there are many more Bible references to the Day of the LORD.
(Vs.4-7) “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are neither of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.”
Those who are unsaved are in spiritual darkness. You can speak to them about the coming wrath of God and their need to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus for salvation but they will laugh with cynicism accompanied by ridicule as they undoubtedly did in the time of Noah unless the blessed Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin of unbelief in the Lord Jesus. When the wrath comes it will be poured out without restraint, but even before that the LORD will send judgements upon the unsaved inhabitants of the world as He did on the Egyptians in the time of Moses.
When the destroying angel started to pass through the streets of Egypt in was pitch black and at night and spiritual darkness had veiled the minds of the Egyptians. However, even though the Israelites were still in Egypt there was light in the houses of the Israelites sheltering under the blood of the lamb signifying that there was spiritual light in the hearts of God’s people. They were in the light and belonging to the light and not in the darkness. When the plagues came these were judgement of God He sent seeking to get the attention of Pharaoh and the Egyptians and even though the Israelites were still in Egypt they were divinely protected. However, when the wrath of God fell upon Pharaoh and his entire army at the Red Sea the Israelites were out of Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land.
So it will be with the rapture and resurrection of the saints. We will go into the time of Great Tribulation but be rescued out of it just before the wrath of God falls on a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting world (Matthew 24:29-31). Noah spent 120 years building the Ark and being a preacher of righteousness compelled the people to come into the ark of salvation from the coming wrath; however it was only a remnant of eight that went into the Ark and the rest perished in the deluge of God’s wrath. It was the same for Lot in Sodom. He was in the city, persecuted and ridiculed by the unsaved and the sodomites but the very same day Lot left the city the fire from heaven fell!
We who have been born again, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God stamped upon our spiritually regenerated human spirit by the Holy Spirit will not be taken unawares when the Day of the LORD really kicks in. We will know that the Lord Jesus is about to return and rescue us out of this present evil age according to the will of God our Father in heaven. We have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus and in His redeeming, atoning and cleansing blood, and on the foundation of that blood will not suffer God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). Having said this it will only be a faithful remnant that will be ready and alert. Paul in his second letter speaks about the last apostasy that will open the way for the coming of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The Lord Jesus also said that because of the increase of wickedness and spiritual darkness in the world that the love of most professing Christians will grow cold but he who has endured to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:12-13). Having said this we are all sons of the day and not of the night if we are walking moment by moment of every day by faith in the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus, in the Word of God, being regularly led by the Spirit, availing ourselves of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse us and to keep us from the power of sin. Added to this we will be praying continuously in the Holy Spirit by which we can build ourselves up in our most holy faith and being spiritually sustained by the love of God as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Messiah to bring us to eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).
We are not of the darkness but of the light! Darkness and light have nothing in common just as the Lord Jesus and Satan have nothing in common (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). We are either walking by faith in the light of God’s Word with a desire to obey it, or we are walking in spiritual darkness and very much at home in this world and attached to the things of this world. If we are caught up with the ways and the things of the world we will not be overly concerned about the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus and not be spiritually prepared for it when it comes unexpectedly upon the world (1 John 1:5-6) (2 Peter 3:3-7).
The unsaved and backslidden are asleep. The word for “sleep” metaphorically means “to yield to sloth (laziness) and sin” or “to be indifferent to one’s salvation.” Spiritual alertness and sobriety must be cultivated every day in us as we wait in expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus. The word “alert” in the Greek text metaphorically means “to give strict attention to be cautious, to be active and to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.” We also know that this alertness is vitally important to our spiritual survival because Satan is on the prowl as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He already has the unsaved; the ones he is going after are you and me as New Covenant believers. This alertness must be accompanied by self-control, being one of the fruits of the Spirit, and by continuing to resist Satan by standing firm in our faith even when suffering for our faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). After we have persisted the LORD Himself will know when we have had enough and He, being the God of all grace who has called us into His eternal glory in the Messiah, after we have suffered a little while, will Himself restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever Amen! (1 Peter 5:10-11).
Paul also mentions sobriety or being “sober.” In the Greek text is the same word used in our text in 1 Thessalonians. If every we need sobriety of spirit it is today as we see multitudes of assemblies across the globe in western democracies being spiritually seduced by the hyper faith prosperity preachers, by ICAL (International coalition of Apostolic Leadership) with their kingdom dominion doctrines, not to mention “the feel good” seeker sensitive, seeker friendly assemblies where the emphasis is on having things good in this world and not having to suffer because we are kings kids, and where secular marketing strategies are utilised to get bums on seats to be crude! When one thinks of spiritual drunkenness it reminds us of the laughing revival ‘thing’ called the “Toronto Blessing” when meetings were out of control and fuelled by spiritually deceived ‘shepherds’ fleecing the sheep of their hard earned dollars!
It is becoming a rare thing these days to hear sermons about hell, judgement, sin, repentance, Israel in prophecy, and eschatology to name a few subjects. All of the past preachers used mightily by God first gave men the law of God before they gave them the grace of God. If we do not see our utter sinfulness and inability to save ourselves and the eternal wrath that awaits us if we do not repent and believe on Him who shed His blood to atone for our sins, then we will never appreciate the mercy and love and forgiveness of God. It is the law first followed by grace! Both are needed, to emphasise one more than the other is an imbalance. As it is written; “A False balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight” (Proverbs 11:1). Laziness in spiritual matters and a lack of self-control over fleshly appetites are marks of those who are walking in spiritual darkness and these will be overtaken when the Day of the LORD begins and the Lord Jesus comes as a thief in the night when He is least expected. And so Paul continues…
(Vs.8) “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Spiritual sobriety consists in having on the breastplate of that faith which works by love governing the heart, being the control centre of the soul and controlling the bodily appetites and desires expressed through the physical body. It is spiritual sobriety. It is the shield of faith that extinguishes all of the fiery darts of the evil one. Also see (Ephesians 6:10-18). The helmet is the hope of salvation which governs the thought life or the mind. Our minds are spiritual; battlefields. Satan attacks the minds of us all as New Covenant believers. Whether it is anxiety, worry, depression, doubt, manifold temptations, bad memories of past failures and past sins that God has actually cleansed and forgiven, it is all attacks from the evil one and his chief aim is to destroy our faith and confidence in God and in his Word. If we are those who belong to the day and not the night then we have spiritual weapons and armour God has provided for us by which we can combat the wiles and machinations of Satan and his demons from Hades in the unseen spiritual realm and kick him out of our affairs (James 4:7-10). The more we feed our minds with God’s Word the more we build the capacity for faith because faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We all have two natures on the inside of us, the old one and the new one, and the nature we feed the most is the one that will ultimately control us.
(Vs.9-11) “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
If we have been spiritually reborn from above by the Holy Spirit, justified, redeemed, forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus we will never experience the wrath of God when it is poured out. We are destined for trials, tests, temptations, difficulties and the discipline of God, and sometimes He will have to judge us and that in his divinely wise and loving providence but we will never experience His wrath. If we are sheltering by faith under the blood of Jesus and justified by His blood shed to redeem us and to provide for us forgiveness for all of our sins, we will be saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). Some of the believers at Thessalonica were troubled because they thought that the trials they were experiencing was part of the Day of the LORD and that the Lord Jesus had come and they had been left behind because of false reports and letters circulating that claimed to be from Paul, Silas and Timothy.
This was one of the main reasons that Paul wrote his second letter to them a year after his first letter. Possibly they even thought that the things they were suffering were because they had somehow not been faithful to the Lord Jesus and that they were now being judged. This situation is not made clear in the letter but what is clear is that they were somewhat confused and unsettled in their understanding of eschatology and about the nature of the rapture and resurrection. It is clear that this was the case when we read Paul’s second letter.
Paul goes on to remind them that their rescue is assured because of the Lord Jesus who had died for them to save them out of this present evil age according to the will of God their heavenly Father. Whether they fell asleep or remained alive on earth they were all destined for the resurrection. Eschatology was high on Paul’s agenda for the Thessalonian assembly.
Today in many assemblies the subject of eschatology is sadly neglected in many pulpits yet the coming of the Lord Jesus is much closer now especially when we see what is happening in Israel, within wider Christendom and in the world at large. Whether we live or die we will be with the LORD either way. As Paul writes to the assembly at Rome; “For none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this reason the Messiah died and returned to life, that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:7-9). It is through an understanding of eschatology Biblically that we can encourage and build each other up in our expectancy of the rescue that is coming for us. This will also result in the destruction of all opposition and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth of which we will be a part in our resurrected, indestructible, immortal, glorified bodies!